Thu, Aug 17, 2006 - Page 19 News List

All Blacks bring in rookie Toeava for Australia battle

AFP , WELLINGTON

Coach Graham Henry has brought international rookie Isaia Toeava into outside center as the All Blacks aim to make it three out of three against Australia and seal the Tri-Nations series in Auckland on Saturday.

Henry showed he was committed to his policy of rotating his squad by making three changes to the team which beat Australia 13-9 in a closely fought test in Brisbane at the end of last month.

Toeava will be making just his third appearance in an All Black starting line-up as the New Zealanders continue experimenting in filling the big boots of retired skipper Tana Umaga.

Mils Muliaina's shift to outside center in the Brisbane Test was judged a success but he will play in his more accustomed position at fullback this weekend. The fullback in that Test, Leon McDonald, will go into the reserves.

"This move bolsters our options at 15, keeps Leon MacDonald fresh, and makes room for Isaia in the starting line-up," coach Graham Henry said after naming the team on Tuesday.

"Ice is a talented young man and the challenge of starting at center against Australia is the next step in his development," he said using Toeava's nickname.

The 20-year-old Aucklander will be given the chance to prove himself against Wallabies powerhouse Stirling Mortlock, assistant coach Wayne Smith said.

"He needs a big game to develop and show in the heat of a really big occasion he's got the goods," Smith said. "Stirling is playing as well as he's ever played and that's what you want for a young player -- he'll cherish the opportunity to go up against the best."

In the other change to the backline, Doug Howlett takes over from Rico Gear on the wing.

"We have a number of players in good form which gives us options," Henry said.

Second rower Jason Eaton replaces Ali Williams but forwards coach Steve Hansen said the change had nothing to do with the All Blacks' recent lineout woes.

"It's not a reflection on Ali, we're very happy with the way he is performing. We just want to see Jason in a pressure test, it's another learning curve for him," Hansen said.

The All Blacks also beat Australia 32-12 early last month in Christchurch.

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